“A New Thing!”
Revelation 21:1-6, May 19th, 2019
Sermon by pastor Tim Woodard
“Hear now these words from the writings in the New Testament from the book of Revelations, chapter twenty-one, verses one thru six”
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them as their God; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; 4 he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away.” 5 And the one who was seated on the throne said, “See, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true.” 6 Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life.
“Having heard these ancient words, let us consider how they fit into our Christian beliefs and clarify what roles this lesson plays in our lives today.”
“A New Thing!”
To go to something new, a new thing, we must first embrace the old. This metaphor speaks to an irony which, at first glance, we may find baffling, even contradictive! The goal, we surmise is where we need to move. However, we must first fully embrace the old, squeezing out the last drops of learned knowledge and experience, which we have indeed paid for, in full! Once this is properly accomplished, we can take that first committed step into our new destiny! If this does not run a shiver up your spine, a step has possibly been missed or a lesson has gone unlearned. The newness we all are seeking is filled with new hope, new possibilities and new challenges yet unnamed! We hope, we pray, we even dare to begin believing the future holds the seeds which, when properly nourished, shall bear new fruit! Fruit which shall last; fruit which shall spring forth in abundance!
We all, have grown from the seed planted within our mother’s womb. That was where we began our journey of life! We each have been nourished with life from those whom were mother and father to us. Our caregivers did the best they knew how. They and all of those who taught us by example, word and deed; they have been our lifeline as a multitude of teachers and life experiences brought us to our present state of being. As we each reflect upon this, we begin to realize that, despite it all, good and bad, we are still on the starting line. In front of us is the future, our future, filled with unknowns and yet, at the same time – our future holds the ultimate hope for mountaintops of life we still seek! Once again, the irony; to get to the next mountaintop, we must travel through that next valley!
It is at this juncture where we need to grasp hold of some faith. For we cannot go forward without the guidance of our Creator, whom weaved the tapestry of life. Somewhere along our journey, prayerfully, we each have had the privilege to become aware of the presence of God in our lives and the lives of others around us. Developing a God consciousness is the apex of our human journeys. Without this, the hopelessness of mortal human existence becomes too much for us mere mortals. Yet, when we are able to let go and let God be God in our lives, the possibilities of new and yet untapped life are boundless! With the Living Spirit of the Holy One as our guide, the potential for spiritual growth and new understandings of what it means to be in relationship with all our Creator’s ‘Creation’ – is unlimited. We must become willing to allow new faith to guide us into a new future! Truly, a New Thing!
William Loader, of Murdoch University, Uniting Church in Australia, gives a simple review of our scripture lesson for this morning. “This passage is a tapestry of Old Testament images of hope.” Let us build upon this imagery; let us allow our hearts, filled with God’s love, design a new tapestry in the image which God guides us to! Missed by many, the poetic writings of the book of Revelations, dispel images spoken of by many, which tell us we shall one day be drawn up into the heavens, somewhere out there in the unknown. All too many Christians shy away from the Book of Revelations as it seems too dramatic and hard to grasp. Yet, in this passage we have lifted-up and we are given a glimpse of a dream that brings heaven to us, right here where we now reside! Put your minds around this imagery! Rethink what goals are in line with a new heaven – right here on Earth!
Good pastors and preachers alike suggest we ought to take everything to God in prayer. That includes praying about people, places and things which are changing or are in need of changing all around us. This hopefully shall remind us all… of how crucial it is that we keep God smack dab in the middle of all our hopes and dreams. With this thought in our hearts and minds, let us listen to a well-known and now retired theologian from our beloved denomination, The United Church of Christ! Kate Matthews offers up a simple meditation, in the form of a prayer, for us to consider. “Alpha and Omega, First and Last, glory outshining all the lights of heaven: pour out upon us your Spirit of faithful love and abundant compassion, so that we may rejoice in the splendor of your works while we wait in expectation for the new heaven and the new earth you promise when Christ shall come again. Amen.”
Most ‘amen(s)’ speak to an ending, however, in this context we must see it as a pause, more like a coma rather than a period at the end of a sentence! Our focus is still toward our future even as we cling to our past. We clearly need to go into our destiny as individuals, yet we are also part of families and we live within communities. All kinds of communities; faith communities, neighborhood communities, and social communities of various natures and focuses. How we interact with others, is crucial to how we shall interact with God. If we cannot or will not find harmony with others, in various settings of life, how shall we find harmony with God?
On Sunday mornings I often observe how many volunteers come together to accomplish the various tasks of our worship service. It is obvious when two or more individuals connect on the ‘spirit’ of what needs to be done. They work together in a way that seems almost seamless. Yet, when there is a disconnect, a different tone is set. Sometimes, a third person will interact with the others and miraculously the situation once again becomes a movement, to ‘yet again’ accomplish something which either needs doing or simply adds to the moment of the ‘ebb and flow’ of an otherwise harmonious task. We could lift up opposite examples which contrast how things can clog up when our interactions become bogged down with things like ego, lack of sensitivity and misguided territorial issues, but it’s not necessary, for we have all been there, at some time and somewhere within our journey’s. Clearly, our goal ought to be to seek out the seamless routes, whenever possible; if we can do so with integrity. Yet, even then we need to seek out the ‘greater good’ for all those concerned.
The purpose in bringing these things into our dialog is to raise up what works and what does not. The not so productive personal interactions, in reflection, can be the lessons we carry into our new and yet unlived futures. On the other hand, we must raise up for all to see those lessons and experiences that point us toward that which is productive and bears good fruit. For this is what we must carry into the future! Prayerfully, we can come to appreciate, more fully, those mystical moments which can only be explained as a God moment; a moment when God’s love, compassion or kindness are clearly at the center of an event. As we continue to reflect on things which have passed, we will consciously ask ourselves: “where was God in this picture?” Perhaps, we will come to realize that when we took time to pray, we had a better result.
As individuals, we are constantly seeking new opportunities, new situations and new moments when we can better our life situations and circumstances for ourselves and for those around us. Finding balance within this thought is perhaps the hardest and or trickiest part. We need to care for ourselves and our needs first, if not we shall become a burden to someone else or others around us. Consequently, finding that sense of balance as we strive to reach out to friends, neighbors and loved ones, sharing some of our time, talent and perhaps resources to assist them in their needs, is oftentimes difficult. We all want to be a part of a better world, a better community and a better home; and we surely want to have the vision of new hope, displayed within our scripture lesson to be fulfilled. What we struggle with, as a people, is to calculate our part in this futuristic thing, or vision we see as a goal. As we move from here to there we need to continually, remember to ask God for guidance even as we seek to serve the needs of others.
The writing of the Book of Revelations is attributed to the Apostle John. Much of what is written, is difficult to grasp. Yet, it has been recorded and has found its place in the last book of the Bible. Today, we have lifted-up a well-recognized lesson that many a preacher has used as a message of great hope and inspiration. I pray we have found this to be a useful tool to have a thoughtful discussion about the ‘New Things’ which out future holds for us, as individuals and, also, as a faith community. Let us all pray that we will ‘at least’ hold onto the imagery which this writing sets out for us. An image of something splendid and worthy of the journey, our journey of faith and life. Let us also pray, that we shall remember to bring God into all our plans and actions. Yes, we are the hands, the feet and the voices of our Loving Creator!
Moving forward, we must continue to develop and strengthen our relationship with the Living presence of God’s Spirit all around us. It is only in relationship with the Spirit of Christ and in relationship with one another, that we shall, not only embrace today’s message of hope, but we will strive to take that hope to the hearts and into the lives of those whom God is guiding us to.